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A guide to concussion and mild Traumatic Brain Injury: About mild TBIs

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Brain injuries are often referred to as ‘invisible injuries’, because it’s impossible for others to fully understand what’s happening below the surface. While there are a lot of common symptoms and issues associated with brain injuries, every case is unique.

Because each person’s journey to recovery takes a different path, after a mild brain injury (such as a concussion), it can be hard to see the big picture of the obstacles you may face, and the treatment and support options available.

This simple guide is designed to offer you useful, easy to understand information about mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - from the immediate impact of the injury to the potential affect it can have on your life.

About mild TBIs

Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are usually caused by a knock, blow or jolt to the head that results in a temporary disturbance to the brain’s functionality.

Concussion is the most common type of mild TBI, with symptoms usually lasting only a few days or weeks, although some people can experience long term symptoms.

Medical professionals class a brain injury as ‘mild’ if a person experiences a loss of consciousness or disorientation for less than 30 minutes.

Mild TBIs usually don’t show up on CT or MRI scans, making them difficult to readily diagnose and understand. Most people are discharged from hospital quickly and will experience no long-term damage to the brain. It’s not uncommon, however, for ‘mild’ injuries to be more serious than first thought.

Often the seriousness of ‘mild’ TBIs isn’t obvious to either medical staff or the injured person themselves, although family members are often the first to recognise something is not right. While some people recover from a mild TBI quickly, others can experience lasting effects from their injury.

Researchers have found that about 15% of patients who are diagnosed with a mild TBI continue to suffer serious symptoms long after their initial injury. Unfortunately, many people underestimate or are unaware of the full extent of their TBI, and try to get back to normal life too quickly, resulting in more serious problems.

That’s why it’s important to take your symptoms seriously, and be guided by medical professionals on your road to recovery.

Vital signs to look out for after a head injury

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms in the days after sustaining a head injury, you should dial 111 or go to your nearest A&E department as you may have sustained a brain injury:

  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions or fits
  • Collapsing or suddenly passing out
  • Unconsciousness or trouble staying conscious (e.g. problems keeping your eyes open)
  • Any confusion (e.g. not knowing where you are and getting things mixed up)
  • Problems with speech or understanding conversations
  • Clear fluid or blood coming out of ears or nose
  • New deafness in one or both ears
  • Problems with balance or walking
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Problems with sight
  • Severe headache that is not relieved by painkillers
  • Unusual drowsiness when you’d normally be wide awake

What are the symptoms of a mild TBI?

Immediately after suffering a brain injury, it’s likely you’ll experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Mild Headache
  • Feeling nauseas (without being sick)
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability and bad temper
  • Concentration issues and problems with memory
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sleep problems such as disturbed sleep

These are some of the more common symptoms people with brain injuries experience, but there are a wide range of different issues associated with mild TBIs too. These are usually divided into three categories: cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms. Let’s have a look at each category.

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